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Azarenka comes of age


 

Originally published on: 28/01/12 10:42

All fortnight the 22 year-old Belarusian had been telling us about the hard work she had put in the off-season and how she felt she could go the distance. After her three set victory over Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals she talked about the belief that she felt she had in herself.

“I think there is a difference between saying it and feeling it,” she said. “You really have to trust. You really have to feel it.”

Today the Belarusian looked confident right from the start. As she followed Sharapova onto Rod Laver Arena she had her hood up, her i-pod on and she looked focused. She took plenty of time to get her bags sorted out. Her Russian opponent won the coin toss and elected to receive put her into serve.

You could have been forgiven for thinking the nerves had taken over as Azarenka dropped her opening service game. But she quickly got the break back in the third game when she broke Sharapova to love. And the story from then on was pretty much one-sided. The next two games went with serve and then it was as if the Belarusian was on an express train. She took the first set 6-4 in 47 minutes.

The Russian did not win another game, Azarenka was dominant in her play, and hitting good length ground strokes and serving well. She won 68% of her first serve points and seven out of eight points at the net. She also took the break points – five out of the seven she had she managed to convert. Maria may have had a bad day at the office, but her younger opponent did not let her even get her feet under the desk.

After one hour and 22 minutes, when Sharapova dumped the final ball in the net, Azarenka fell forward to her feet and after she had embraced the team in her box, she made a confident speech as she clutched the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy.

The story of how her grandmother helped her regain her appetite for the game is now known around the world. If you want to read more, have a look at our feature in the January 2012 issue of tennishead. We thought her time had come and she proved to us, and a lot of other people, that she really has come of age. The hard work has paid off.

If she carries on like this in the big moments, Victoria Azarenka’s name is going to be etched on more than just the trophy she clutched possessively today. “It was pure joy” she told local broadcaster Channel 7 after the match.

Added to her first Grand Slam title is the small matter of the World No.1 Ranking. The 22-year-old is also the first Belarusian to hold the World No.1 slot. Apparently, her team are all dying their hair blonde as part of her victory celebrations and there was mention of champagne. There’s certainly a lot to celebrate tonight. Hope back home, her granny’s got her dancing shoes on. Vika has arrived!

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